Key Stage 4 Options

The following information is designed to guide you through the options that are available to you for Key Stage 4.

  1. KS4 Options Evening
  2. Message from the Headteacher
  3. Introduction to Key Stage 4
  4. Qualifications
  5. Course Information and Structure
  6. A Bespoke Education Programme (BEP)
  7. Choices - Choosing and Changing
  8. Making your choices - Advice for students
  9. Thinking ahead / University
  10. The English Baccalaureate
  11. Careers Advice - see our Careers Advice Page for more detail.

All information (including individual course information) is available for download in our PDF iconoptions_booklet_2017.pdf and choices can be made using the PDF iconoptions_form_2017.pdf.

1. KS4 Options Evening

Each year the School hosts an Options Evening to give an opportunity for parents, carers and students to ask questions about any aspect of the Key Stage 4 curriculum. The date of the next Options Evening will be published on the School Events Page in January each year.

2. Message from the Headteacher

Welcome to a hugely significant moment in your education. The options process is a time of great possibility, of tough decisions, and of serious self-reflection. The latter is the most crucial – take the time to identify what you really want from your education – and treat these choices with care. Get them right, and they can go a long way to unlocking your academic potential and to ensuring you enjoy lessons and thrive at school.

Within your options, consider what you might need for your future. Many of you will be undecided about your future pathways at this stage – the best analogy is packing your bag before setting off on an adventure. What do you need to survive in any situation? The essentials: the torch, tent, sleeping bag, food, water. In many ways those essentials are taken care of. You will all study English, Maths, Science, PE, and PSHE. So the subjects you choose are your specialisms – your equipment that is specific to you and your future journey. Do you pack a rope, first aid kit, and camera? What kind of adventure are you going on? The truth is that none of us know – and you may not yet be able to predict the path you will follow.

The best advice is to pick as widely as possible, to be prepared for the widest range of possibilities. What is also crucial is that you pick based on valid criteria that make sense to you. These could be from the following: do you have a particular strength or talent you want to really excel at? Are you interested in learning more about a specific subject? Is that subject a good route to a future career you want to pursue? Do you know older students who have already studied the course and given you some experience of what it is all about? Have you looked at the subjects that continue into Sixth Form? Have you listened to the advice around university admissions and which subjects they are looking for?

In short – there is much to ponder. One piece of advice would be to embrace this and treat it as an opportunity – and I know it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities. The most important thing is that you pick the courses that make you happy, that make you love to learn, and wake up on Monday morning smiling to come to school. We all do our best when we are happy.

Mr Harrold
Head Teacher

3. Introduction to Key Stage 4

Key Stage 4 covers Years 10 and 11 of a student’s school life. At this, to some extent at least, they can start deciding which subjects to continue and which to drop. Whilst some courses are compulsory others are optional and thus selecting the subjects to study is known as ‘Options’.

The importance of selecting Options subjects carefully cannot be overstated as the courses taken at this stage form the passport for entry into later employment as well as further and higher education. Before making subject choices for Years 10 and 11, students and their parents or carers should spend some time reading the sections on The Importance Of Key Stage 4 Options and Thinking Ahead - For Those Considering Studying At University which are intended to give a broader perspective on course selection.

It is also important to understand the following:

  • Which subjects are compulsory at Key Stage 4,
  • Which subjects are available as optional courses,
  • What each of the optional courses contains, demands and where it can lead in the future,
  • Options restrictions, recommendations and the E-Bacc (The English Baccalaureate).

The pages in this document should provide you with the answers to these questions.

Under a scheme called Raising the Participation Age (RPA) students currently in Year 9 will be required to remain in education or training until the age of 18; this can include employment with training, so does not mean that students need to remain in school.

The Importance of Key Stage 4 Options

Students should aim to make selections for Key Stage 4 which will support progression to Key Stage 5 AND for life beyond education (at whatever level they leave it). They should look ahead at what courses and qualifications they may need for each level beyond Year 11 to ensure their choices allow them to progress as they hope. The range of pathways from Year 9 to higher education or employment post 18 are illustrated below:

GCSEs or other refers to level 2 qualifications which are nationally recognised and valued. These include GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and technical awards such as BTEC (Business and Technical Education Certificate).

‘A’ Levels refers to level 3 qualifications which are well established and recognised by colleges and universities. A levels take two years to complete and most students study for these post 16.

Foundation Learning refers to learning which is below level 2 post 16. It is appropriate for students not yet ready to progress to level 2 or beyond.

Apprenticeships refers to training given to young people who are employed by a company but who also receive further education either at college or at the workplace. This is a means of earning whilst learning! The range of employment areas in which an apprenticeship can be taken has expanded massively in recent years and higher apprenticeships can be taken up to degree level.

The sooner students begin thinking about their long-term ambitions, the easier they’ll find making their Options choices at Key Stage 4. Students unsure of their long-term plans should select a range of courses offering breadth and balance and if they think they might want to study at university later, they should refer to the later section Thinking Ahead - For Those Considering Studying At University.

4. Qualifications

All qualifications are referred to by a level. These levels are from The National Qualifications Framework, which is outlined below:

Level 1 - Qualifications equivalent to GCSE grades D to G or 1 to 4.

Level 2 - Qualifications equivalent to GCSE grades A* to C or 5 to 9.

Level 3 - Qualifications equivalent to A Levels.

Level 4 - Qualifications equivalent to degree level.

Level 5 - Qualifications beyond degree level.

The vast majority of the courses offered at Blatchington Mill at KS4 are at level 2; these are mostly GCSEs but some level 2 BTECs are available too.

Unless otherwise stated, courses will be at level 2, but please read the information carefully to ensure appropriate levels of course are selected.

5. Course Information and Structure

Details of the courses offered and the way they are structured are available in our Options booklet link at the top of this page or from Firefly. Each student will also be given a paper copy.

6. A Bespoke Education Programme (BEP)

For some students a modified timetable will be developed. This may well allow the study of alternative courses which are not a usual part of the Key Stage 4 curriculum. Students may be selected for a Bespoke Education Programme for a number of reasons, which will be discussed with parents and carers on an individual basis.

7. Choices - Choosing and Changing

Changing Courses Later

Students must be aware that it is difficult and often impossible to change choices once the courses have started in September. If a particular course is full and a child requests moving onto it, this will not be possible. Every year a few students take courses for the wrong reasons and later ask to swap to an alternative; whilst we try to accommodate requests where students genuinely misunderstood the nature of a subject, this is sometimes impossible and the student has to stick with the choice they made. Any requests made after the end of September will not be considered as it is difficult to start a new course after this point.

Dropping Subjects

All students are expected to complete every course they start. Students will not be allowed to drop courses simply because they no longer like the subject or they have changed their mind and no longer wish to study it. It is essential therefore when selecting courses that students read the subject information carefully, talk to teachers and opt for subjects which will support their career aspirations as well as interest them.

We will make every effort to ensure students get the courses they select. There are times, however, when another choice is offered in place of the selected first choice. Students and their parents / carers will always be consulted in these circumstances.


8. Making your choices - Advice for students

Things to do:

  • Take your time.
    If you rush you could end up making choices you’ll regret.
  • Listen to advice.
    There are many people who are able to talk the decision over with you, including your parents, subject teachers, sixth form tutors, form tutors, senior staff and the careers advisor.
  • Think about the following.
    What you might want to do in the future as a career.
    What skills and qualities you’ll need to have for your career when you’re older.
    What you might want to do at sixth form college e.g. Blatch6?
    What you won’t be able to do in the future if you don't choose certain subjects now.
    What your preferred way of learning is; are you better with practical courses or very academic ones?
    What you like studying now and what you’re good at.

Things NOT to do:

  • Don't get worried.
    If something is unclear, ask for help and advice.
  • Don't choose subjects because your friends do.
    You will probably not end up in the same class.
    Your friends may be much better / worse at the subject than you are.
    You may not stay friends!
  • Don't choose a subject because of the teacher.
    You may like or dislike certain teachers but you might not be taught by them next year. Every year some teachers leave the school and new ones arrive.

9. Thinking ahead / University

Imagine how frustrating it would be for a student if, when they finish Year 11 or Year 13, they could not get on to a higher-education course they really wanted to take due to making poor choices earlier. Students need to be aware that for a number of courses at university they need to have taken the subject at A-level, and many ‘A’ Levels require the subject to have been taken at Key Stage 4. The following section is all about making sure students don’t accidentally limit their choices later on by selecting a very narrow range of options now.

Those considering the possibility of studying at university need to be aware of the entry requirements for the courses they may wish to study. These can be looked at using the UCAS information website, in conjunction with individual university websites. Clearly, a student hoping to study for a degree in Art needs to take Art at an advanced level and to do this, they need to select it as one of their GCSE options in Key Stage 4.

Many students may have the ambition to study at university, but may have little idea at present as to exactly what. Anybody in this position needs to select subjects now which offer breadth and balance in their curriculum. Some useful advice on advanced level choices (many of which will be dependent upon having studied the subject at Key Stage 4) is available from The Russell Group in a document called “Informed Choices” a link to which is available from the Options Website.

The Russell Group is an association of the top 20 universities in the country and their advice is aimed at students hoping to study for a degree at one of the universities in the group. The document is important for both students who have a clear idea of the courses they might like to take and for those who aim to attend a good university but are unsure of their particular focus of study.

The Russell Group describes some subjects at ‘A’ Level as Facilitating Subjects. This information is useful for those unsure of what they might like to study at university or even in Years 12 and 13. Facilitating subjects at an advanced level include:

Mathematics and Further Mathematics English (Literature)
Physics Biology
Chemistry Geography
History Languages (Classical and Modern)

This does not diminish the value and importance of other courses

Students with an interest in a particular subject should still take it alongside others which provide breadth and balance to their curriculum. Students not wishing to attend university can decide for themselves how important “Informed Choices” is to them.

Some colleges are reluctant and others will not allow students onto an ‘A’ Level (advanced level) course without them having studied the subject at GCSE previously. Please note, however, that the individual Science subjects listed can all be taken at ‘A’ Level by students who have studied Science and Additional Science in Years 10 and 11.

“Informed Choices” concludes with a section listing typical entry requirements for degree courses. It does this in terms of compulsory and recommended ‘A’ Level qualifications. Students interested in applying for courses at university should take time now to look the entry requirements of different degree courses to satisfy themselves of the appropriateness of their Key Stage 4 choices.

It is worth reminding students again that their choices at Key Stage 4 should be broad and balanced; they may have a fixed career idea in mind now which could change many times before they start applying to university or, if not interested in this higher level of education, before beginning their chosen career.

Selecting a wide range of subjects in Years 10 and 11 is a good idea, as is taking some courses they really enjoy even if they don’t see these as being a potential career route. If a student enjoys a subject and takes it as a part of a mixed selection, there is no reason why this shouldn’t help their future education and career progression.

10. The English Baccalaureate (the e-bacc)

In 2011, the government announced a qualification called The English Baccalaureate (or E-Bacc for short). This is not a stand-alone qualification, but an award given to students who achieve a grade ‘C’ or above in a minimum of 5 subjects, which must include all of the following:

  • English
  • Maths
  • A Science (which can include Computer Science)
  • A Humanity (either History or Geography only)
  • A Foreign Language (any recognised modern language, classical Greek, Latin or Hebrew)

From 2016 (the year students selecting their options now will sit their exams) the E-Bacc will form a part of the assessment of students’ success in school. The government has stated its view that it expects more students to take E-Bacc subjects than has been the case until now. As such, the position and status of the E-Bacc could chance at some point in the future and we need to ensure students will not be disadvantaged by not having achieved it. Consequently;

ALL STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO SELECT AT LEAST ONE E-BACC COURSE AT KEY STAGE 4.

On the Options Form, E-Bacc courses are shown in bold type and in italics. The blocks are structured to allow students as wide a combination of courses as possible, but they must select at least one of the courses shown in bold. Students are welcome to take more E-Bacc courses if they wish, but this is an individual choice for each student and their parents / carers.

The introduction of the E-Bacc is a reasonably recent development and one designed to ensure young people receive a broad and balanced education. To reassure students, parents and carers, taking at least one E-Bacc course will not be a disadvantage in the future.

A guidance paper called ‘Informed Choices’ was written by some of the top UK universities a few years ago; it listed the E-Bacc subjects as amongst the most useful for those wishing to attend university but unsure of what degree they might be interested in taking, or indeed, which courses they might take following Year 11. E-Bacc courses are often referred to as ‘Facilitating Subjects’ as they support progression to many higher education courses.

For further advice and guidance, students can see their Form Tutor, their Year-Team Leader or any member of the school’s Senior Leadership Team. Curriculum Team Leaders can offer advice on subject specific questions and the websites listed in the Careers Advice section of this booklet are useful places to look for general and more detailed Careers information.

11. Careers Advice

Information, links and contact details are available on our Careers Advice Page.

Updated A.Crawford Jan 2016